Its ethnic roots have been long debated, but if you had any doubts about the origins of one of the world’s most popular dishes, there is enough evidence to support China’s claim. It is said that around 300 BCE, the Chinese poet Shu Shi wrote an ode to noodles, a poem said to be so detailed that it was used as a reference for Chinese cuisine during the time. More conclusively, about a decade ago, a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles was found inside an overturned sealed bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in north-western China, buried under three meters of sediment. The beautifully preserved, long, thin yellow noodles is considered the earliest example of the dish. Need we say more!
Putting aside the debate of its exact origins, there is no doubt that in the cultural interaction between countries and cultures thousands of years ago, the humble noodle found its way into the kitchens and on to the tables of the Chinese, the Italians and the Arabs, becoming an intrinsic and essential part of the culinary history of those regions. And today, versions can be found in almost all cuisines of the world.
In China noodles have been a staple for more than 2000 years. Contradicting a common misconception that their ethnic diet is primarily rice, noodles made from wheat flour are also served at the Chinese table, both in the northern and southern parts of the country. Noodles are in fact, made from either wheat, rice, or mung bean starch, with the wheat version being more commonly produced and consumed in northern China and the rice variety being more typical of the South.
The traditional noodle, usually served long and uncut, according to Chinese belief symbolizes a long life. Even though today most noodles are made by machine, it is still possible to watch vendors make hand-pulled noodles in many parts of China. In this process, the paste is stretched out, twirled around several times, laid out on a board and refolded several times to eventually be transformed into long, thin, noodles.
There are different varieties of noodles, which vary according to the ingredients used. Hot or cold, steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried, boiled, or served in a soup, they are eaten with vegetables and meats stir-fried or tossed. For the nutritionally-inclined besides being low in calories, they are also an excellent source of protein and extremely high in complex carbohydrates.
To experience more of the delicious flavours and delightful varieties of noodle dishes, the Dragoner team spent an afternoon at the popular Hong Kong Restaurant and Tea Lounge in Riffa. Located in the trendy shopping enclave of the upmarket Riffa Views estate, a great ambience and some nice touches in decor and music choice, make the attractive and well-appointed restaurant a favourite place for food lovers. The colourful array of traditional dishes with subtle flavours and delicately balanced ingredients, as well as some delightful new innovations, demonstrated just why the restaurant was the perfect choice for the culmination of the noodle journey. Good service and a great menu with some traditional Cantonese recipes – a satisfying end to the day… the pictures tell the story!
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